The Independence Hall Association has created a website where they present three free textbooks that were written by “a former Pennsylvania history teacher of the year, in conjunction with other historians” (https://www.ushistory.org/textbooks.htm)—they don't list an author. This review is of one of those textbooks, U.S. History: Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium. It can be used with junior high students, but it seems ideal for high school level.
This textbook is designed only for use online since it is linked to other sites that provide its enrichment material. The course is presented in 60 sections that are equivalent to chapters in a book. Each section has from four to nine sub-sections. The table of contents for the textbook is hyperlinked to an introductory page for each section as well as to each sub-section individually, making it easy to navigate.
Both the introductory pages and sub-sections can easily be read in one sitting. Along with historical information, each webpage features illustrations or maps along with informative captions. In addition, all of these webpages include one or more sidebars with information and links to other websites that provide opportunities for deeper exploration of related topics. And even though not everything is on their website, all of this adds up to a textbook with as much or more content than a printed textbook.
The course begins with the study of Native Americans, the first European settlements, and colonization, then continues through events up through 1999. The text sometimes includes quotes from primary source documents, and some of the sidebar links are to the documents themselves.
The approach is secular, although religious developments such as transcendentalism and the Second Great Awakening are covered in some detail. As far as the political point of view, the authors tend toward the support of progressive views. They devote an entire section to progressivism, and support for that point of view also shows up in sub-sections such as “Social Security” and “The Equal Rights Movement.”
U.S. History: Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium is well written and should be easily understandable for the average student. It is surprisingly good for a free textbook. However, what is missing are the ancillary items like writing assignments, chapter questions, and tests.
There is a fully developed course from HomeSchoolAmericanHistory.com that uses U.S. History: Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium for much of its content. The complete course, American History: A Story of Courage, Conflict and Freedom, is written from a Christian perspective. It directs students to many sections in the online U.S. History text along with many other online resources. It also includes extensive student activity and accountability resources.
Parents who want to use this text on its own can create their own assignments and forms of accountability. For instance, key terms and vocabulary words are in a bold font. Parents might have students write definitions or explanations for these. Students might be given writing assignments on particular topics, or they might be assigned research through some of the sidebar links.
The website itself functions very smoothly, and weblinks that I explored were all functional. If you are looking for a secular U.S. history, this is definitely worth checking out.